Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
We were not expecting this book to be THIS wacky and entertaining!
The Dragon in the Closet: Book One is an immensely wild, wacky, fun, and entertaining children's book by Carolyn Watson-Dubisch, who designed creatures for Star Wars and TV shows.
Those monster-making skills really come in handy in this book! This book is a CREATURE FEATURE! It is PACKED FULL of cryptids and mythical creatures from dragons to giant worms (akin to Tremors) and even a monstrous bipedal fish.
There are nearly 100 full pages of full-color graphics and illustrations in this book! It is beyond impressive. No, the art isn't Picasso, but you can definitely tell that a lot of time, thought, and energy went into crafting each and every illustration! You can see the lines and the strokes in the colors. The effort alone is noteworthy.
There's good attention to detail too. For example, did you notice that the box in the attic says “Jack's Stuff?” It is revealed that the family is descended from Jack from “Jack & the Beanstalk.”
Something else that really comes through in the illustrations are the emotions the characters are feeling! You can tell when they're scared, happy, angry, tired, or worried.
The writing is also decent to good. For one, it is very easy to follow what the characters are doing and saying, even when crazy, wild things are happening on the pages. The dialogue is very brief and concise, which we loved (for a children's book).
The other thing that REALLY comes through in this book is the humor. This book is incredibly funny, and the humor is incredibly dry at times.
For example, when Orin asks his Nana, “Nana, are you a witch?”
She gives the eye-rolling response, “Do you really have to ask?”
Immediately after violently frying two giant worms to death, Nana then asks Orin if he wouldn't mind tacos for dinner.
In the context of this book, it's very funny considering that his Nana very clearly has magical powers. The entire first-quarter of this book is a running gag about Nana constantly saving Orin from monsters. It's hilarious because of how overdone and over-the-top it all is.
Something else that's arguably funny (although it'll depend on your taste) is how much cartoonish death occurs in the book. Things are constantly dying in this book. They get burned, squashed, eaten, etc. The dragon, for example, is a carnivore. It's constantly killing and eating things including a random bird and a random rabbit. This might be a bit dark for kids to see, but it is a little humorous in a Tom & Jerry sort of way.
Another thing about this book that we loved was the relationship between Orin and his best friend, Lucy. Together, they are candidates for “Best Couple”/”Best Duo.” However, we were a little disappointed that Orin couldn't have a more heroic moment when Lucy was in danger. It instead had to be Nana to the rescue again.
We wanted to emphasize that this book is a bit more dark and mature than most children's book, despite its humor. We'd almost categorize it as Dark Humor. As we said, there's A LOT of death in this book. Creatures die in various ways. As we mentioned, a bird and a rabbit get flash-fried and eaten like Porgs in The Last Jedi. At least a couple of humans die of their injuries during a particular conflict. It's surprisingly violent, albeit in a cartoonish way (think Looney Tunes).
All in all, though, it's all in good fun and actually quite silly.
We LOVED this book and actually care about the cliff-hanger ending and sequel!
Check it out on Amazon!